The Widow and the Lion of the Lord : Sarah Ann Cooke vs. Brigham Young
Journal of Mormon History
Salt Lake City, UT
Mormon History Association
Sarah Ann Cooke and her husband, William, stopped in Utah on their way to California in 1852. While there, Sarah joined the Church and decided to remain in the Salt Lake Valley. She became very active in the community and even taught music lessons to Brigham Young's family, so when her husband was fatally wounded, Young purchased a small lot and home for her and her family for $500. Several years later, a neighbor notified her that he wanted to offer Young a different property in exchange for the one that the Cooke family was currently living on. Worried that her family might lose the home that she thought was gifted to them, she asked Young to give her the first chance at buying the land. He made a proposal for Sarah to purchase the property for $4000 over a period of four years, but this was a financial impossibility. Though Young told her to submit her own proposal in writing, she told him she could not undertake such an obligation. She never signed a contract to pay any amount or made a counterproposal. Scott details the litigation pursued by both Cooke and Young disputing the ownership of the property over the next seven years, the final courts deciding in Sarah's favor. The legal battle had several ramifications. Sarah became disenchanted with Young and left the Church for the Congregational Church. She also became the first person to win a civil judgment against Brigham Young and prided herself on being the 'little lady who stood up against Brigham Young.' She also later became the president of the Ladies Anti-Polygamy Society. The author concludes that the situation was based on hard feelings and stubbornness on the part of both Cooke and Young, who cold not compromise because both saw it as an abuse of trust.